Bilingual education with public-school accessibility? It’s possible in Adelaide with the French Bilingual Binational Program

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The French Bilingual Binational Program offers your child an extensive and proven range of neurodevelopmental, cognitive, social and health benefits along with career and lifestyle opportunities attributed to bilingualism. The program is offered by Highgate School and Unley High School, both part of the Australian Association of French English Bilingual Schools.


French Bilingual Binational Program

This program allows students to follow both the Australian and the French curriculums through a unique harmonisation model. It has the support of Department for Education of South Australia and the French Ministry of Education via the French Embassy in Canberra.


What is the French Bilingual Binational Program?

The French Bilingual Binational Program sees a harmonised curriculum across all non-specialist learning areas. Most subjects will be taught in French and for those subjects, parts of the French curriculum are covered along with the Australian curriculum.


Highgate School started its program in 2017 and Unley High School in 2018. 2022 will see Unley High School offer the International Baccalaureate program to its SACE year students. This provides a strong opportunity for the completing French Bilingual Binational year ten students to continue their French language studies through the compulsory language component of the Baccalaureate. From 2023, students having completed year 6 at Highgate will be able to transition through selective entry to continue the French Bilingual Binational Program at Unley High School.


Genevieve Papineau, Director of Reception to Year 10 French Bilingual Binational Program said:

These primary students embarked on their bilingual journey in their very first year at school and it will be really exciting to see them transition and complete the program at high school level when they graduate.”

French Bilingual Binational Program


Which subjects are taught in French?

Highgate students are taught all subjects in French except for performing art (except Media and Visual Arts), PE, Technologies (Design and digital).  Students also learn Chinese languages.


Unley High School’s curriculum has been harmonised for Years 7 and 8 Maths, Science, HASS and French.  In Years 9 and 10, the curriculum has been harmonised for HASS and French. In 2021, the program commenced a Year 10 work experience placement offering with local French companies through the French Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry..


The program is not aimed only at children from French-speaking families

The French Bilingual Binational Program is not solely a program for French speaking families to allow their children to maintain their French language and to follow the French curriculum. In fact, over 70% of the children enrolled in the program come from non-French speaking families.


Benefits of the French Bilingual Binational Program

The benefits of learning another language and of bilingualism are well known.


Bilingualism positively affects children’s cognitive development, social development and their health. It is known to provide exceptional neurodevelopmental benefits such as higher executive functioning, adaptability and problem solving. In some cases, bilingualism can be linked to better confidence and academic outcomes.


Completing the International Baccalaureate at Unley High School in SACE years to allow students to enter any university around the world. In addition to further education, bilingualism opens up access to international career pathways. For examples of the career benefits of learning French, you can watch videos on The French Embassy in Australia’s YouTube channel. La France en Australie – YouTube


This video from La France en Australie highlights career opportunities open to those who speak French: « Great opportunities that I’ll never forget » / Why Learn French ?  « Great opportunities that I’ll never forget » / Why Learn French ? – YouTube


French Bilingual Binational ProgramApart from the academic benefits, a bilingual education through the French Bilingual Binational Program also allows students a greater cultural education with connections to France and its culture. Students of the French Bilingual Binational Program are able to enjoy uniquely French cultural events such as meeting His Excellency, Ambassador of France to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thébault; French markets, pétanque days and zoom calls with bilingual students in France. French culture is also brought into the classroom and the playground with French games.


We asked students in the French Bilingual Binational Program what they like about the program. Louis from Year 5 at Highgate said quite simply “I like the fact that I speak two languages”. Older brother Sebastian studying the program at Year 10 at Unley High School said “The program gives me more opportunities for my future”. Tabatha at Highgate said “I like to discover new things like sports that we didn’t have in France for example. I prefer the Australian school [system] because we have more autonomy and we learn sometimes with games


Programs continue despite the AUKUS fallout

The programs were established in collaboration with local French families and the Department for education prior to the announcement of a deal with France to build submarines in Adelaide. The AUKUS fallout has not affected the Department for Educations commitment to the program or families completing their studies at Highgate and Unley.

French Bilingual Binational Program


To enrol in the French Bilingual Binational Program at Highgate, you will need to make an expression of interest and complete a registration form. You can find out more information about this process and the appropriate contacts via this link


While the preference is for the forms to be returned by week 3 of term 3 for enrolment the following year, Highgate School accommodates enrolments throughout the year where they are able to do so.


Entry to Unley High School’s French Bilingual Binational Program is by application and requires a language assessment. Out of zone students are also eligible to apply for Unley’s program. Assessments usually occur in March/April but the school is open to taking applications and conducting assessments throughout the year if need be. Further information about enrolments can be found via this link:


With all the benefits of the French Bilingual Binational Program being offered at a public-school accessibility it’s difficult to find a reason not to enrol your child!



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Ellie James talks to us about her cine-concert Lumières!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ellie James will perform her cine-concert Lumieres! at the Adelaide French Festival. She has written a soundtrack for several short films, which she will perform live at this show. She sings in English and in French. 

We spoke to Ellie James about her show and her music.



Lumières! is a cine-concert in which you will play the soundtrack live while several short films are screened. Did you create the show? 

It’s the Travelling festival, a film festival in Rennes, that contacted me via Armada Production for the creation of a cine-concert for a young audience in 2016. I didn’t really know much about this type of show, and I had never appeared alone on stage before (I had played in a number of groups), so I hesitated a little before accepting as I didn’t know if I was capable. But they always believed in me and supported me for the creation of Lumières!, which I wrote solo.


How did you choose the short films? Did you already have music in mind? 

I watched a lot of films, on DVDs lent to me by Travelling festival and I searched a lot on the internet, on sites for animation schools and on vimeo. The films needed to be coherent between them and able to be adapted for children from 3 years old. And they also needed to inspire me of course! I tried to watch films without the sound, to not be influenced by the original soundtrack. I already had a few compositions laying about on my computer, that I tried to adapt to follow the image, but for the most part, I wrote music after having chosen the films. Going from the image so that the rhythm was respected.


Lumières! is your first cine-concert for a young audience. Have you already done shows for young audiences?

It’s my first cine-concert.  I play in a number of groups (Mermonte, Bumpkin Island) which are more so groups for adults.


Where did the idea for Lumières! come from? 

I needed to find a common theme for both the films and narration in my lyrics. I found 4 films which speak about day, night, the sun and bulbs. It spoke to me. I like the idea of the cycles of day and night and of the stars and the sky. Even more, for the set design, I have two massive vintage bulbs on stage in keeping with the theme!


The soundtrack for Lumières! is inspired by the music of Sufjan Stevens and The Beatles. Do these artists influence your music in general? 

Yes, I listen to a lot of pop music. I like the voice harmonies, so I love The Beach Boys and The Beatles! I have a loop recorder on stage, which allows me to record my voice at the same time. I like Steve Reich and Philip Glass’s repetitive music. The loop recorder adds a repetitive dimension to my music. I have a keyboard, a hangdrum, a kooldrum, and an Indian harmonium on stage to accompany my voice.


What is your background? Did you study music? 

I come from a family of musicians, so I have always listened to and played music. I started by singing and then I studied a bit of piano at the School of Music. But I especially learned alone. I don’t really know how to read music, I have the basics of music theory but that’s quite limited.


What style of music do you sing? 

Pop? It’s difficult to define.


How is the creative process for Lumières! different to the creative process when you are making music without film as inspiration or direction? 

For a cine-concert, the aim is for the music to accompany the image, to make the story understood. So you have to adapt to the rhythm of the narration, and to search for the right sounds and the right instruments. There are no verses or refrains, it’s a lot less “songs” and much more so ambient music.


You’ve got two British parents. How did you come to be in Rennes? 

My parents moved to Brittany before I was born, to get a change of air. I grew up in France and I have never lived in England, I feel very French. But I learned to speak English with my family, so I am bilingual. There are songs in French and others in English in this show.


What are the challenges in singing in a language which isn’t your maternal language? 

I’ve always found that songs sung in English sound better than sung in French. I tried to choose a few words in French that sound good, that I could use like I could in English.


Anything else to add?

Come see the show!! Thank you so much! See you in January!


You can see Lumières! this weekend at the Adelaide French Festival: at 1:30pm on both Saturday 12 January and Sunday 13 January. Children’s tickets cost 15 and adult tickets are $25. There is also a family ticket (two adults and two children) for $65. You can buy your tickets here.


What’s your favourite film soundtrack?